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Updated August 10, 2017

Earn Airline Miles Without Flying

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Do you want to travel more? Well, guess what? There's an airline miles trick that airlines do not want you to know about.

You can earn airline miles WITHOUT flying. And it doesn't even require you to use the airline's co-branded credit card.

A one-airline strategy works for some people. For instance, if you live in a rural area with limited airline choices.

But for the vast majority, it's not ideal.

Instead, with the right credit card, you can earn points with your everyday spending and convert them to miles to fly on the airline that works for you. We'll explain why this is the better route for most people.

Plus, you can skyrocket your mileage balance by taking advantage of the right credit card promotion.

Travel Transfer Partners

Some credit cards, like Chase Sapphire Preferred and Starwood Preferred Guest from American Express (a CreditDonkey partner), allow you to transfer points to a participating airline's frequent flyer program.

Which airline do you plan to use the most? Here are the corresponding credit cards you should not ignore.

$95 Annual Fee, But Here's Why It Is Worth Considering

Our favorite travel-friendly credit card is Chase Sapphire Preferred. It has a huge bonus point offer and premium travel benefits.

Chase Sapphire Preferred
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred lets you earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. You can earn 5,000 bonus points if you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months from account opening. This card lets you earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide. The points can be transferred 1:1 to leading frequent travel programs including airline transfer partners. The card has a $0 foreign transaction fee. The card also comes with premium travel and purchase protection benefits (including trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance and auto rental collision damage waiver). There is an Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95.

Chase Sapphire Preferred's airline transfer partners include Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, British Airways (oneworld), Air France (SkyTeam), Korean Air (SkyTeam), Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance), and Virgin Atlantic.

Chase Sapphire Preferred's hotel transfer partners include Marriott, Hyatt, IHG, and The Ritz-Carlton. Marriott operates 30 brands including Renaissance, Residence Inn, and Courtyard.

If you want to fly American, you can use British Airways to book a partner flight on American Airlines (and other oneworld alliance partners).

If you want to fly Delta, you can use Air France or Korean Air to book a partner flight on Delta Airlines (and other SkyTeam alliance partners).

If you prefer to convert points to American Airlines (AA) or Delta, take a look at Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) credit card, which allows you to transfer points from SPG to AA or Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

Tip: Chase Sapphire Preferred has one of the best signup bonus promotions we've seen on CreditDonkey. Combined with the introductory annual fee of $0 the first year (then $95 after that), it's easy to understand why it's so popular among people with excellent credit.

This card is not for everyone. Because the rewards and benefits are so great, the application process is very selective. You'll need excellent/good credit to qualify.

To learn more, click here to visit Chase's secure website. You'll find the online application and details on the 50,000 bonus point promotion. Remember, banks change their promotional offers all the time, so if you have great credit, now is the time to apply.

Do you own a business? Ink Business Preferred lets you earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. 80,000 points is worth $1,000 toward travel when you redeem via Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3 points per $1 on the first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable and phone services, advertising purchases made with social media sites and search engines each account anniversary year. Earn 1 point per $1 on all other purchases - with no limit to the amount you can earn. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a $95 annual fee.

Starwood Preferred: Starpoints

Do you spend over $1,000 per month?

Take a close look at the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner. It's a hotel credit card with an interesting twist.

Most airline credit cards only earn 1 mile per dollar spent. But with SPG, you can effectively earn 25% more since it offers 5,000 bonus Starpoints when you transfer 20,000 points to an airline transfer partner in a single transaction.

Starwood Preferred Guest
Apply for Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express
Starwood Preferred Guest offers 25,000 bonus Starpoints® if you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your new card account. You earn 2 Starpoints® for each dollar of eligible purchases spent on the Card at participating SPG® & Marriott Rewards® hotels. You earn 1 Starpoint for all other purchases. You can redeem points at over 1,300 participating hotels and resorts in over 100 countries with no blackout dates. There are no foreign transaction fees. There is a $95 annual fee ($0 introductory annual fee for the first year). Terms apply.

SPG airline transfer partners include American Airlines, Delta, Alaska Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, British Airways, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France (Flying Blue), Emirates, Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles), Virgin Atlantic, Avianca, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, Etihad, Asiana Airlines, Air China, Alitalia, Air Berlin, Jet Airways, China Southern Airlines, Japan Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Thai Airways, Virgin Australia, Aegean Airlines, Miles and More, All Nippon Airways, and China Eastern.

To learn more, read our Starwood credit card review or visit American Express' website.

AMEX Membership Rewards

Do you spend over $334 per month on your credit card?

If you use your credit card daily, consider the Amex EveryDay credit card from American Express, a CreditDonkey partner.

Amex EveryDay
Apply for The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express
Amex EveryDay offers 10,000 Membership Rewards® points if you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of opening your new card account. This card earns 2x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000/year in purchases, then 1x) and 1x points on other purchases. If you make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period, you will get 20% extra points on those purchases (less returns and credits). Enjoy a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months. After that, a variable APR, currently 13.99% to 23.99%. There is no annual fee. Terms apply.

AMEX Membership Rewards transfer partners include Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, Aeromexico, Air Canada, Air France, Emirates, Cathay Pacific (Asia Miles), Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Alitalia, and All Nippon Airways.

If an annual fee does not scare you, look at the Platinum Card and the Premier Rewards Gold Card.

 The Platinum Card from American ExpressPremier Rewards Gold Card from American Express
 Apply NowApply Now
 

Fees

Annual Fee$550 annual feeIntroductory annual fee of $0 for the first year, then $195
Terms Apply See Rates & FeesTerms Apply See Rates & Fees
 

Benefits and Features

Introductory Bonus Reward PointsIntroductory Bonus Reward Points: Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you use your new Card to make $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.Introductory Bonus Reward Points: Earn 25,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $2,000 in purchases within the first 3 months.
Airline StatusAirline Status: $200 Airline Fee Credit, up to $200 a year in baggage fees and more at one airline. Terms Apply.
Access to 5 airport lounge networks including The Centurion® lounge network, The International American Express lounges, Delta Sky Club® lounges, Priority Pass(TM) Select, and Airspace Lounge. Enrollment required for Priority Pass Select.
Airline Status: $100 Airline Fee Credit. Up to $100 a calendar year for baggage fees at one airline.
Hotel StatusHotel Status: Enroll for complimentary SPG Gold Status (Starwood Preferred Guest Gold Preferred Guest).
Enroll for complimentary Hilton Honors Gold Status.

Fine Hotels & Resorts - book your stay through American Express FHR at one of 600 luxury hotels and you may get a room upgrade upon arrival, daily continental breakfast for 2, guaranteed 4pm late checkout and a special amenity unique to each property. Terms Apply.
 
Airline RewardsAirline Rewards: 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.Airline Rewards: Earn 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines.
Point RewardsPoint Rewards: Earn 1 point for virtually every dollar spent.Point Rewards: 3X points for flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points at US restaurants, US gas stations, and at US supermarkets. 1X points on other purchases.
 Apply NowApply Now

  • The Platinum Card offers Airport Club Access to five airport lounge networks, including: Delta Sky Club lounges, Centurion Lounge, and Priority Pass Select. Priority Pass Select alone includes access to over 950 participating airport lounges worldwide. But is the card worth the $550 annual fee? Read our in-depth AMEX Platinum review for our thoughts.

  • Premier Rewards Gold Card has a $195 annual fee, but if you spend a lot booking flights directly with airlines, it might be worth it. Read our in-depth Premier Rewards Gold Card review for our opinion.

Bottom Line

The trick to traveling more is to be smart about how you earn airline miles.

Don't restrict yourself to earning miles just by flying or using the airline's co-branded credit card.

Take advantage of credit card airline transfer partners to rack up more miles toward free flights and upgrades.

Of course, airline miles are not for everybody.

  • If you have credit card debt, consider a low interest credit card instead. Most rewards credit cards have high interest rates, which is fine if you pay off your balance in full each month. But if you are in debt, the last thing you should think about is traveling and taking vacations while incurring high interest rates.

  • If you don't have good credit, consider a credit card for people with fair credit or no credit. While they do not usually offer travel rewards or perks, they can help build your credit history if you use them responsibly - which really helps you out in the long run.

  • If you don't want to use airline miles but still want to travel, take a look at general travel rewards credit cards such as Barclaycard Arrival Plus, which earns 2x miles on all purchases. However, their "miles" cannot be transferred to airline transfer partners. Think of them more like points that you can redeem them for travel statement credits toward eligible travel purchases.

Credit card offers, redemption options and values can change at any time. If you have great credit, now is the time to apply.

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
Apply for Chase Sapphire Preferred Card
At Chase's Secure Site
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
N/AN/A
16.99% - 23.99% Variable
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95

Keep in mind: taxes, fees and surcharges may apply. Terms and limitations apply.

Charles Tran is the founder of CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to Charles Tran at charles@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped travelers make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

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About CreditDonkey®
CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.